We Refuse to Serve in the Occupation Army! It is not easy to take an unpopular stand for what we know is right! And I am proud of the 50 Jewish Israeli teenagers who on March 8th published an open letter to Netanyahu declaring their decision to refuse conscription because of the military occupation of Palestinian territories ~ “In these territories, human rights are violated and acts defined under international law as war-crimes are perpetuated on a daily basis.” ~ For having the courage to follow their conscience, these 50 teenagers will likely be imprisoned.
According to Ruth Hiller from New Profile, a feminist Jewish Israeli organization that supports conscientious objectors, “These youth are also protesting the way in which the army influences civilian life, deepening the sexism, militarism, violence, inequality and racism present in Israeli society.” Israel is not a state with a military but a militarized state. Military service is mandatory for Jewish Israelis ~ 3 years for men and 2 years for women ~ unless exempted for religious or health reasons. But “ideological” objectors who follow their conscience face jail time.
Some say this is the largest group of Israeli draft refusers since 2001. Some say it is the largest in Israel’s history. But it matters not. What matters is that people are taking notice. What matters is that the IDF ~ Israeli Defence Force ~ has become the IOF ~ the Israeli Occupation Force. And these young people know this! They know the consequences of their actions. They know that theirs is a highly unpopular stance in Israeli society. They know that they may be rejected and judged by their family and friends. They know that they face jail time and discrimination in job opportunities. And still they take a stand against what they know to be wrong!
Mandy Cartner, a 16 years old signatory from Tel Aviv said: “The actions of the army distance us from finding a solution and from creating peace, justice and security. My refusal is a way of expressing my opposition to the wrongs done daily in our name and through us.”
The full text of the letter from these 50 “Refuseniks” is reproduced below. This powerful statement was published on the Facebook page of the Israeli pacifist group Yesh Gvul, “There is a Limit!” ~ I am left pondering ~ What is our limit? The line that cannot be crossed? The boundary that cannot be violated? ~ What are we willing to stand for? To stand against? ~ Is there something about which we need to say, “Not in My Name!”?
“We, citizens of the state of Israel, are designated for army service.
“We appeal to the readers of this letter to set aside what has always been taken for granted and to reconsider the implications of military service.
“We, the undersigned, intend to refuse to serve in the army and the main reason for this refusal is our opposition to the military occupation of Palestinian territories. Palestinians in the occupied territories live under Israeli rule though they did not choose to do so, and have no legal recourse to influence this regime or its decision-making processes. This is neither egalitarian nor just. In these territories, human rights are violated, and acts defined under international law as war-crimes are perpetuated on a daily basis. These include assassinations (extrajudicial killings), the construction of settlements on occupied lands, administrative detentions, torture, collective punishment and the unequal allocation of resources such as electricity and water. Any form of military service reinforces this status quo, and, therefore, in accordance with our conscience, we cannot take part in a system that perpetrates the above-mentioned acts.
“The problem with the army does not begin or end with the damage it inflicts on Palestinian society. It infiltrates everyday life in Israeli society too: it shapes the educational system, our workforce opportunities, while fostering racism, violence and ethnic, national and gender-based discrimination.
“We refuse to aid the military system in promoting and perpetuating male dominance. In our opinion, the army encourages a violent and militaristic masculine ideal whereby ‘might is right’. This ideal is detrimental to everyone, especially those who do not fit it. Furthermore, we oppose the oppressive, discriminatory, and heavily gendered power structures within the army itself.
“We refuse to forsake our principles as a condition to being accepted in our society. We have thought about our refusal deeply and we stand by our decisions.
“We appeal to our peers, to those currently serving in the army and/or reserve duty, and to the Israeli public at large, to reconsider their stance on the occupation, the army, and the role of the military in civil society. We believe in the power and ability of civilians to change reality for the better by creating a more fair and just society. Our refusal expresses this belief.”